Eric Marienthal was born on December 19, 1957 in Sacramento, California to Robert Marienthal, an insurance salesman, but moved to San Mateo when he was two years old. He has credited his enthusiasm for music on being taught music while in school, and picked up the saxophone in the fourth grade after he thought it looked "pretty cool". Marienthal has also mentioned his father was a fan of music, particularly 1940s and 1950s such as Boots Randolph, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. He initially wanted to pick up the trumpet but a teacher discouraged him because of his braces. As Marienthal progressed, his father bought him a $400 Selmer saxophone and enrolled him in Corona Del Mar High School. Throughout his education, Marienthal also learned to play guitar (in grade school), flute, clarinet (both high school) and piano (college).
After graduating from high school in Southern California in 1976, he studied at the Berklee College of Music, where he studied with the saxophone professor, Joe Viola. By the time he left Berklee, Eric had achieved the highest proficiency rating given by the school. In 1995 Eric was awarded the Berklee Distinguished Alumnus Award for outstanding achievements in contemporary music. He has since gone on to perform in over 65 different countries, recorded 14 solo CDs and has played on hundreds of records, films, television shows and commercial jingles.